Monday, October 22, 2012

"Volume 10" Of Monty Python’s Flying Circus Has A Few Good Hooks!

The Good: One good episode
The Bad: One bad episode
The Basics: The next set of Monty Python’s Flying Circus reviews puts forth a real mixed bag with "Volume 10," half of the Set 5 two-pack!

"Volume 10" of Monty Python's Flying Circus includes the episodes "Blood, Devastation, Death, War, And Horror," "The All-England Summarize Proust Competition," and "The War Against Pornography" and continues a fairly mediocre season of sketch comedy by the once-brilliant "Monty Python" troupe. However, where some of the other Volumes have been homogeneously bad, this disc succeeds with "The War Against Pornography," underwhelms with the first episode and is a little better than neutral for the second. The result is a disc worth watching and because of the strength of such things as the Gumby brain surgeons, "Politicians: An Apology" and the mollusc (the apparent British spelling) documentary sketch, it is actually worth picking up.

Still, the men of Monty Python - Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin - seem to be fading some in the creativity department. While Cleese pulls off the sheer idiocy of yelling "Nurse!" as a Gumby when one is right before him, his is one of the few decent performances on this disc (though his deadpan through the mollusc documentary is pretty hilarious as well). Michael Palin and Eric Idle give up trying to keep straight faces during some of the sketches and there is an overall more sloppy feel to these episodes.

For those with an interest in exactly what is on "Volume 10" in this set, this disc includes:

"Blood, Devastation, Death, War, And Horror" opens with a talk show by the same name. On it, an interviewer interviews a man who speaks only in anagrams. When he uses a spoonerism, the interviewer calls him on it and he promptly leaves, which opens to the credits. Then there is a gameshow where a woman unscrambles a word and is bopped on the head by a giant hammer. A banker then approves a loan with extraordinary conditions attached to it. After approving the loan, the merchant banker allows a man collecting donations for orphans in and is astounded by the idea of simply asking people in the street for money and getting it! He then brings in the bank's two pantomime horses and has them fight to the death for their jobs.

What follows, then, are life and death struggles between seals, an ant and a wolf and businessmen. This culminates in a sketch involving ravenous man-eating houses that have to be hunted down and condemned. A sketch then begins at the Mary, er Army, Recruitment Center where the recruiter gets all the best punchlines and the extra begins walking off. To try to appease him, the recruiter switches the settings to a bus and circus, but keeps stealing the best lines. In between two of the segments, a man is laughed at for nothing more than saying ordinary lines and the show moves into a sketch with a talk show host who gestures to indicate his punctuation. Announcers interrupt him to provide themselves with work and the news is read also using body language for punctuation. The show ends on a self-referential note with a late-night film involving a spy pantomime horse.

After the remarkably simple opening - the Naked Organist, John Cleese saying "And now," and the disheveled man saying "it's . . ." - with the credits, "The All-England Summarize Proust Competition" begins with a sketch by that title. When three contestants fail completely to summarize a Proust work, the award for the contest is given to the woman who showed up with the biggest breasts. The closing credits run then, followed by a sketch on hairdressers who set up salons on Mount Everest. That is followed by a ridiculous sketch wherein classic movie hero and heroine moan to one another about making a fool of themselves, surrounded by loony bits. Then follows a fireman's brigade that refuses to answer its telephone and as a result, a woman and her husband lose a hamster. Their son returns from Dublin decked out like an African warrior and eventually the fire brigade pays them a social call.

This is followed by a documentary on enjoying parties by Veronica Small, which quickly gets sidetracked with avoiding Communist takeover of one's parties. This is followed by an animation on Communist Revolutions which is little more than a bad pun and then a voice-over seminar that degenerates into a musical number. The musical number reboots to the Mount Everest voice-overs, which is one of the many places that a certain travel agent does not book adventures to. When a client comes in and begins to ramble about India, the secretary walks the cameraman to another sketch. On the talk show "Thrust," Anne Elk postulates about the shape of a brontosaurus after much delay and the host walks out to the travel agency to close the episode with the fire brigade choir.

"The War Against Pornography" opens with a special on how British housewives are fighting the culture wars against indecency and smut. This is presented literally with the British housewives beating alleged pornographers and covering up art they find distasteful. This leads into the opening credits, which opens into a Gumby whose brain hurts and has to have his brain removed. An overlong animation follows with the whole purpose seeming to be to bridge to an empty television screen which a man bashes apart. The doorbell rings and the Mrs. lets in a live documentary on molluscs, which the pair becomes bored with until the host starts talking about the sex life of molluscs. This is followed by a news report wherein the Ministers are given silly cabinet titles.

The episode progresses with a segue of news broadcasts that continually change from children's storytime to sports to other programming that is a non-sequitor. The match of the day degenerates into players kissing or falling into lovemaking positions before the program becomes an apology on the activities of politicians. This then turns into an expedition to Lake Paho, a lake in England confined to a single downstairs flat. The episode closes with an interview of a silly man who is declared the silliest person an interviewer has ever interviewed and the sketch - and program - are scrapped.

On DVD, these episodes are enhanced with filmographies of each of the six Pythons, a featurette on Terry Gilliam's animations and a trivia quest one plays with their DVD remote. As well, the travel agent sketch from "The All-England Summarize Proust Competition" is presented live and there is a clipshow featuring various wacky inventions or daredevils from the series.

Overall, this is a funny enough set to enthusiastically recommend.

[For a much better value, check out the penultimate season, Monty Python's Flying Circus Season 3 on DVD, reviewed here, as it has the complete season, with nothing left to search for!]


For other television show reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing of all I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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